MangaPlaza has officially launched, so now it’s time to check out the full version of the manga subscription service and store!
So MangaPlaza doesn’t look that different from its beta version. Black background, manga covers grouped by category, and genres and featured sections toward the bottom. The carousel is a common feature for websites, but what’s uncommon is that you can’t click on the little panel icons. Usually, you’re able to click on the mini-list to go back or forth, but not here.
Also new are the quick links near the top of the homepage, including pages for the top titles of the day and month.
At the very top are links to access your account or sign up for a subscription. The menu button brings these up and additional options.
MangaPlaza costs $6.99 a month, and new subscribers can get a 7 day free trial. You can browse the site for free, but if you want to read any of the free chapters, you must register for an account.
Okay, let’s do that then. But…
My device is unsupported? Well, let’s see why…
I’m using Firefox, so I guess that’s why I got the message. Chrome and Safari cover the vast majority of users, but for a second, I was thinking, “I am reading manga and not playing a video game, right??” Also note there is no app version, and it doesn’t sound like one is ever coming.
By the way, MangaPlaza sent out an email saying you must choose new user even if you preregistered.
You do need to come up with a username. This can be changed, but I don’t know if there are limits. I did not see a warning though when I accessed my account settings later.
Once you sign in, that button changes to SafeSearch. SafeSearch is on by default, so many (all?) manga with mature content (R18+) are hidden. For instance, ShuCream BL titles can’t be found without turning off SafeSearch. I can understand wanting to protect younger readers, but I’m sure some manga fans will stumble across MangaPlaza and search for explicit series and not see them and move on. I wish MangaPlaza would let unregistered users know more manga are available than what you can see by default.
Now, to test the search. Note that search won’t predict what you’re looking for as you are typing; you have to hit enter and then get to the results page. First word I thought of was “ask”, and it brings up titles with ask, asking, mask, and masked in the results. “Yoshi” brings up authors who have that anywhere in their name, even in the middle like “Hatsuyoshiya”. However, keywords are not checked against manga summaries, just titles and creators. So if I search “Tsukushi”, the star of the manga Days, I wouldn’t find it. As for Japanese titles, it seems to be based upon the publisher’s data. Like, “kyojin” and “hataraku” received 0 hits, but “takane” brought up The Boy Out of My Reach (Takane no Hanao-kun). At the same time, I’m not exactly sure how “kawaii” brings up Harem Days: The Seven-Starred Country, Somari and the Guardian of the Forest, My Boyfriend is a Big Baby, and Arte, among others. Are there hidden tags the search checks against? Isekai brings up a lot of isekai titles, but Somari and the Guardian of the Forest appeared again — that’s not isekai, right? Unless there’s a twist later on that I don’t know about, but I thought it was just a fantasy story.
If you click the categories at the top, covers are arranged in a grid. It’s ordered by popularity by default, but you can switch to alphabetically, most likes, or newest. Clicking on the genre buttons near the bottom of the homepage brings up manga in a list, and these you can’t sort from A to Z.
Titles have a notice if they’re part of MangaPlaza’s paid subscription service.
Clicking on a manga brings up the info and chapter list page. Summaries are partially hidden, so you have to click on “Read more” to get the full introduction. There are also links to favorite it.
Then there is the full chapter list, with multiple pages for longer series.
At the bottom is more info about the series including publisher, and there are rows to show your history and MangaPlaza’s recommendations. Their recommendations seem to be based on genres, and they are randomly generated. So if you reload the page or come back to it later, the list will repopulate.
If you access a series though, say, search or categories, the chapters will be organized chronologically. However, if you click on a title from the “New” section, it’s the reverse; latest updates will be at the top.
While I keep mentioning MangaPlaza’s subscription option, you can also purchase chapters. You can only buy by chapter, not by volume. All first chapters are free, but beyond that, they range from $.45 to $2.99. From an outside perspective, pricing seems very odd. Maybe it depends on the number of pages, but when you’re just browsing, the cost just seems to be the roll of the die.
Let’s start with Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. This one may not be the best example because of how the manga is organized with interstitials and bonuses and stuff, but still. I’m using the physical version as a comparison. Starting with the title page for Episode 7 as #1, I counted 35 pages in that chapter. Now the next page starts Episode 8, so starting over, Episode 8, which costs $1.99 on MangaPlaza, is a whopping 5 pages long.
As I said, Wotakoi is a bit odd in its organization, so let’s stop at page 12 in Episode 7. The corner has a little arrow next to “Episode 7”, so to me, it’s still Episode 7. But let’s say not. That would make Episode 7 12 pages long, and Episode 8 28 pages. Okay, maybe that explains the price difference, but starting with splash pages as page 1 again — and this time, there are limited between Episodes 9 and 10:
Episode 9: 14 pages, $.45
Episode 10: 10 pages, $.99
Even if you moved a couple of pages in Episode 10’s favor, that doesn’t explain the difference. Maybe Episode 10 has color pages on MangaPlaza? Who knows, because you can’t preview a chapter.
Also, Episode 14 is in volume 2, but MangaPlaza shows volume 1’s cover.
Let’s skip to Fairy Tail. Now, I have never read it, and I don’t own it, and perhaps one of you Fairy Tail experts will be able to explain. Because as an outsider, I don’t get this.
“Oh, okay, I guess…” I said to myself. “I guess the final chapter is really big or something to cause it to be so much? After all, chapters 2 and 3 are $1.99, and usually the first three chapters of a weekly serialization are bigger…”
So I went Googling.
Uh, that’s an unexpected result for what I was looking for…
And then, when I found myself stumbling, I discovered something interesting on Amazon…namely, the series ends at chapter 545. INKR lists 545 chapters. Wikipedia lists 545 chapters. This Crunchyroll article talks all about Chapter 545 before it came out.
Soooo…what the heck are these five extra chapters?!?! I’m guessing they’re either bonus stories or actually from a side story volume, but shouldn’t that be made clear? I looked at the chapter list page from the digital version available on Kindle, and the table of contents for the final book (volume 63), and it doesn’t show anything after Chapter 545.
Also, the first two chapters on Amazon/Comixology are available for $.99. Chapter 101 is another that costs $1.99 on MangaPlaza but $.99 on Amazon. Maybe there’s more; I didn’t check every chapter. So unless there are some amazing bonuses exclusive to MangaPlaza, I guess you’re donating an extra dollar to them randomly.
Now before I fried my brain cells trying to understand MangaPlaza’s pricing system, as I mentioned, there is a subscription option. However, two key points:
- Not all manga is included.
- Not all chapters of a title are included.
This is not dissimilar to Kindle Unlimited, izneo, Pocket Comics, and a whole lot of other comic platforms. Some manga may not have any chapters that are included with a MangaPlaza subscription. Banners are added on manga covers to advertise what’s included, and then on the chapter list page, you can see how many chapters are included. It’s a mixed bag even with their exclusives. For instance, all six chapters of Naturally, I Demand Restitution! is free to read with a subscription, but the six chapters of For You, My Ghost that’s included represents only about half of what’s available (13). Only the first chapter of There’s Not One Thing I Like About Natsume is included, which makes no sense because all first chapters are free, so why is it advertised as a subscription manga?
One question that isn’t made clear is how often their manga will be updated beyond this intro period. Will some series only update once a month despite being well behind the Japanese version? Will MangaPlaza play catch up? How often new titles are added to their service makes a big difference in deciding whether to keep a subscription active or drop in and out. MangaPlaza seems to match chapters with their volume cover (which does certainly help when finding spots to take a break or noting spots to revisit), and since volumes can take three, six, twelve months or more before dropping, some series may languish as they are for a while.
The reader remains the same. Because it’s a web reader, if you go too fast to a part you’ve read before, you will see a loading screen that should disappear once you stop. The reader defaulted to vertical mode again. You can’t quickly access another chapter; you need to close out the reader to go back to the chapter list page. There, an option to continue reading is added, but it only jumps to the chapter in the list; it doesn’t open the reader.
MangaPlaza does save your place in chapter, but it seems to only work in the same browser. It doesn’t seem to sync across devices. If I started a chapter on my computer, I could go to my iPad and see it added to my history, but when I opened up the chapter I left off at, I would restart from the beginning. I’m sure not too many people are going to be switching devices mid-chapter, but I imagine if you clear your browser cookies or other Internet history frequently, it may not be able to pick up right where you left off.
Speaking of my iPad, I did notice that since I defaulted to horizontal scroll on my computer, the iPad automatically kept that option. But this means that reading in portrait mode is a bit wonky, as part of the previous or next page “bleeds” onto the screen. You can’t customize it for, say, a single page view on an iPad but still able to flip pages like a book in portrait mode.
Finishing a chapter gives you an option to continue if you pay for it, or if it’s part of the subscription, and offer to sign up.
If you want to comment, you will be taken out of the reader and to a webpage where you can browse other users’ thoughts and leave one of your own. As the service is new, very few have comments. Even likes are hard to find for some series, with some as of this writing waiting for their first heart (A Side Character’s Love Story).
The “My Library” link at the top or in the menu takes you to your Purchases by default, but you can also jump to your History and Favorites. You can either delete or sort by name (sort by date is the default).
“My Account” includes some familiar links (FAQ, Subscription) along with News, Purchase History, and Account. The latter is where you can change your username and password. Again, I didn’t see any warnings about limits to changing your username, but I wasn’t about to find out.
MangaPlaza says it accepts PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard to pay. If you preregistered, according to the rules, you need to use PayPal for the promotional cashback offer. Perhaps similar offers in the future will require a PayPal account, so keep that in mind.
Although MangaPlaza doesn’t recommend Firefox, I had no issues with the site. The lack of an app version hurts if you’re mainly a phone or tablet manga reader, as it may not be optimized for your device and your preferred reading style. If you want to be able to read your manga like a magazine but be able to rotate it when there’s a two-page spread, you are going to have to see parts of panels in advance. In some cases, it just may be a little bit of black lines like a page, but this can be so much you can make out letters.
Manga on MangaPlaza is only available to purchase and not to rent, so while it isn’t hard to read more than $6.99 worth of manga, you also have to balance the fact much of the content is going to cost additional money to enjoy in full anyway. Even for titles like Naturally, I Demand Restitution! which have all currently available chapters included in a subscription, is that only for now since they’re so new? Or will certain titles be free in full maybe not forever, but long enough for many fans to have read them in full?
I mean, I didn’t expect Kodansha Comics titles to have a lot of series available as part of a subscription in full, but I would have thought more of the “Only on MangaPlaza” section would be. However, I was a little confused by that list — I guess it’s only Solmare Publishing titles included? I thought manga like Or Something Like It was an exclusive, but maybe it just has an exclusivity period?
Doesn’t really matter, but highlighting rare/unique series is important since there are several options for manga subscription services out now. Kodansha Comics titles make up a large chunk at MangaPlaza, but it seems every service has a selection from them. Others like Harem Days: The Seven-Starred Country are found elsewhere (Kindle Unlimited in that example), so pushing MangaPlaza’s subscription’s exclusives is what they need to get people to join versus other services, several of which are cheaper if you subscribe beyond month-to-month.
I also stand by my previous statement that this isn’t a service if you prefer action and adventure stories. I believe only two manga from the action section aren’t Kodansha Comics titles, and even then, the whole section is only three pages long, the same as mystery/suspense. As a comparison, the romance link is the largest with 19 pages of manga. There are some great titles included in a subscription (exclusive or otherwise), and I’m looking forward to marathoning the heck out of the ones that are fully available.
If you’re not going to subscribe but buy manga on a per-diem basis, MangaPlaza’s chapter approach is better if you can only afford a buck or two in your manga budget at a time. However, you should check whether you’ll end up paying more for a full volume. I do wish the chapters were more descriptive than just “#[x]”, but at least with the volume covers you may be able to look elsewhere to match up if you’re looking for a particular chapter. But if you do go elsewhere, you may find the chapters cheaper since prices can vary from chapter to chapter for seemingly no reason!
Anyway, MangaPlaza has some good titles in its subscription plan, but there are some drawbacks with its site-only approach. I’m not sure how well the store will go over since you cannot download anything. That means if you lose power or heading somewhere with no Wi-Fi, you can’t read manga. MangaPlaza isn’t the only subscription service with such limitations, but it’s a definite negative for purchases. And since there’s no financial benefit to staying with MangaPlaza long-term, I can see it being the sort of service readers dive into for a month or two to read a series in full but going elsewhere afterward.